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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

We'll Both Be OK.......Won't We? For anyone "just tuning in" this post may leave you wondering what the heck I am rambling about, I hope you take the time to go back and review my earlier posts so you can catch up with our story. For anyone who has been along for the whole wild ride - Thank you! I very much appreciate your thoughts and comments

Nearly seven hours into our five hour trip home I was finally able to loosen my grip on the steering wheel. Even though the snow was still pelting my windshield and the roads were still icy, I had quit worrying about ending up in a snow bank (or worse).

We still had an hour before we would be home, I had plenty of time to worry about other things.  Not being one to pass up such an opportunity, I shifted my concern and began worrying about the two steps mom would need to maneuver in order to get in to the house.

Even though  mom had undergone two major spine procedures in the last month, totaling nearly 16 hours of surgery, she seemed stronger.  I just wasn't sure of our abilities to complete the tasks we had before; I wasn't sure we could count on things being the same.

Before the surgeries, mom and I had developed a number of routines to get us through each day.   For example, we knew what it took to get in and out of the house safely.  I just hoped the stairs she had been practicing in rehab had been enough to prepare us for the "real thing".

Months before our departure, my brother and I had made sure every entrance was equipped with safety bars.  Although moms’ prosthetic knee had been wobbly and she wasn't quick, with a spotter mom could get up the steps without too much trouble.  At least she had been able to navigate the two steps BEFORE the surgeries.  I wasn't so sure now; I had an uneasy feeling.

I tried to think of someone who could help me get mom in to the house, everybody I could think of would be working.  As we rounded the corner leading in to the valley, I finally voiced my concerns to mom.  She didn't seem near as concerned as I was.  “It should be easier without the back pain” my mother had a point.  Without the pain limiting her abilities, it really should be easier.  After some discussion we came to the conclusion we could do it just like we had before; we just had to follow our routine.

My daughter - Showdown at Sundown triathlon
Unlike the dedicated routine of an athlete training for a triathlon, our routine required only a few simple steps:  I would unload moms’ walker and help her out of the car.  Mom, with her walker, would then walk the few steps to the door and park her walker at the bottom step, where she steady herself with the grab bar while I set the walker at the top of the steps and set the brakes.  The routine required me to be right behind mom to “spot” her as she climbed the two steps in to the house, just in case.

In my mind I went through the sequence we needed to follow and was feeling much more confident as we pulled in to the garage just after 6:00PM March 21st, 2013.  It had been over a month since we had attempted the steps but the stairs hadn't changed and mom was much better than she had been when we had left home in mid February.  We had this!

I ran through the required steps one more time, this time I recited the rote out loud.  I needed to make sure we were both clear on the routine; that we both remembered what was required to ensure moms' safety as we made our way in to the house before we made the attempt.  Once I was certain we were both on the same page, the routine began.

Step one was easy: I unloaded the walker.  Step two wasn't a problem: I helped mom out of the car to a standing position.  Three and four went fine also and moms’ walker was settled at the top step with the brakes set.  We were almost there.  “Hang on just a minute, mom” I wanted to unload moms wheelchair and close the hatch of my car so I could close the garage (it was cold and snow was blowing in).

I found out that day how true it was that even a slight deviation in our routine could upset the proverbial apple cart. 

My back hadn't been turned for more than a second or two when I heard moms foot clunk against the bottom step.  I turned just as my mother, seemingly in slow motion, was holding the grab bar and swinging herself around to a sitting position.  That was NOT part of the routine.  I sprinted back across the garage, unfortunately I must have also been in slow motion; I couldn't get there quick enough.

“I’m alright”, mom was sitting on the second step.  "My toe caught on the step", She was shaking and visibly scared, but didn't seem to have any apparent injuries.  She was pretty sure nothing was broken and her back seemed fine.  The gait belts were all packed in the car somewhere, we hadn't needed them until now.  If I could get mom to cooperate, I was sure I could improvise.

I told mom to put her arms around my neck so I could help her get up. "I can do it, but you have to trust me" I said as she hesitated.  Mom was afraid she "might" hurt me. I knew if she didn't trust I could get her up, I couldn't; we would likely both get hurt. "Why didn't you wait?", I couldn't hide my annoyance at our predicament.  Maybe it was more discomfort than annoyance.  We had only made one bathroom stop during our nearly eight hour drive; I had to pee!

Instead of answering my question, mom told me to call my brother.  Once again she assured me she was OK.  I reminded her that my brother was working out of town; it would take him hours to get there.  Mom looked dejected as I dialed my husband’s cell phone and began unpacking the car in search of the gait belts.  I couldn't leave mom just sitting there!  "I needed to go to the bathroom", mom finally answered my earlier question.  Just hearing her say "bathroom" nearly made me pee my pants.

"Will you be OK for a minute?", I asked mom and before she could answer, I shot past her.  It had been several hours since our last stop; there was no sense in both of us bursting our bladders!

Both my husband and son arrived within minutes of my call.  As my husband helped mom to her feet she explained why she hadn't waited for me to spot her before starting up the steps.  "I thought I could make it but my toe caught on the step", mom explained.  She then blushed and added, “I had to go to the bathroom”.  Snarkily, I asked how that had worked out for her. she shot me the mom look as she toddled on to the bathroom.

Mom and I had both learned valuable lessons that day.

The lesson I learned was that no matter how monotonous a routine can get, it was imperative the it was followed EXACTLY the same each time, at least until a new routine had been established!  Taking an extra few seconds to close the hatch had NOT been part of the routine!  Not following the routine had been a mistake.

Mom had learned, no matter how much better she was feeling since her surgery, she still needed help with some things.  She also learned she could get to the bathroom a lot faster if she waited for a spotter; waiting for someone to come get her up off the step takes a bit longer.

Thankfully, other than her ego and a couple of bruises, mom was going to be alright.

I also would be fine if I could get my heart to stop thumping so hard.

We'll both be OK.

Won't we?


Tanya said...

I have faith you will both be fine. Your anxiety and frustration at the situation is something that I completely understand as a caregiver. As a patient my heart breaks for your Mom. Incontinence is humiliating, but when it due to not being able to move well enough or pain it is a very hellish type of indignity.

healthcare hostages said...

Hi Tanya! Anxiety and frustration has just become a way of life - I suppose it is the same for all caregivers.

Believe it or not, mom actually made it to the bathroom after sitting on that step waiting for help for those few agonizing minutes.......I'm the one that almost didn't make it!
You are right about the indignity that comes with the lack of mobility and the impact that has on ones life!

As always, I thank you for your thoughts and comments!